Happy Birthday, Dad
Big raves in a big-lump-in-my-throat-kind-of-way to my Dad on what would
have been his 81st birthday today, August 25, 2006. He died suddenly at age 44 of a
brain aneurysm on a snowy, early winter Veteran's Day with howling winds that I
still can sometimes feel and hear.
It's hard to imagine what my dad would have looked like older or old, since he didn't
have a gray hair and always looked even younger than he was. I'd like to think that
we would have got along as adults as well as we did when I was a kid. He was a laid
back, easy going man who just didn't ever raise his voice in anger. He was
everyone's friend. That was so apparent to even 10-year-old me at the funeral home
when his grown up friends came by and sobbed and cried loudly because he was
My parents loved each other madly and genuinely respected one another to no end.
They were impressive role models as a couple because they never fell out of love and
never stopped being best friends. My friends' parents, who were like distant strangers
in the same house, weren't like my mom and dad at all.
Considering that Dad's mother was always sick and then died when he was 5, that he
had an evil step mother almost immediately on the scene and a spineless, so spineless
Old World dad who gave away his three little boys to their mother's sister to raise so
he could start a new family, it's amazing that Dad and his two brothers thrived and
got beyond their early childhood traumas as they did, even with far, far better role
models in their aunt and uncle and cousins who acted as siblings.
I think that he and I started that whole "Take Your Daughter to Work Day" thing in
the 1960s. I loved tagging along with him to work, going roller skating with him and
staring down with sheer contempt all the older high school girls who shamelessly
flirted with him. And I liked rooting him on when he played on his softball and
He should've been there when I got married, when I told mom after 16 years of
trying that I was pregnant, when I had their only grandson, when I realized my
perfect little boy had Autism, when I left my husband last year and all the days in
between. He should've been there, too, for my brother and my mom over the years,
because they had the same missing piece in their lives as I did in mine. I have many
precious memories of him, but still would've liked to have had quite a few million
So on what would have been his 81st birthday today, I raised a toast and drank a
bottle of his brand Yuengling beer. I looked through old pictures and decided that I
probably could have swayed him at least by the late 1980s to switch to a better beer. I
decided also that mom probably would've got on his nerves too in her 50s.
But finishing the bottle, I knew that Dad would have always looked the same to me
as he did the last time I saw him smiling and saying goodnight in 1969, even if he
were still here at age 81.